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Quiverfull is a social movement popular in some evangelical and fundamentalist circles in the United States. The movement's signature doctrine proclaims that couples should have really large families, in many cases ten children or more. Think of it as Protestant fundamentalism meets Roman Catholic doctrine on contraception.[note 1] Quiverfull started in the USA but has started spreading to infiltrate fresh woods and pastures new — including the UK.
The name "Quiverfull" comes from a Biblical quote:
As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them: they shall not be ashamed, but they shall speak with the enemies in the gate.
The implication is that large families are an element of a divine arsenal.
What people don't want to hear
Since the evangelical mainstream is currently preoccupied with telling gullible suckers with a bit of cash what they want to hear, and since most people want to hear that they are permitted to have all the sex they want without saddling themselves with a bunch of smelly babies, the movement has yet to gain widespread acceptance in the evangelical community; Quiverfull families often attend small, independent churches.
Misinformation and surrender
The movement explicitly encourages members to surrender to God as much as possible, particularly in the question of how many children a family should have. They believe that every child is a gift from God, and so God will decide how many children is appropriate. In this way, they see contraception as interfering with God's will (so much for divine omnipotence).
Women are told to sacrifice their bodies as Jesus sacrificed himself on the cross. Strain and health problems that result from frequent childbirth are seen as being on the cross. Childbearing must continue even if this puts the mother's life in danger.
Garrison suffers from a rare bone condition that made pregnancy dangerous. Her husband had a vasectomy after baby number three. But after reading Campbell and other Quiverfull authors, her ideas and the vasectomy were reversed.
Garrison continued to get pregnant against all medical advice, almost dying with the birth of her last - and seventh - child. But for a true believer, dying in childbirth is supposedly a noble act, she says.
"I really believed that I wouldn't die unless God willed that I die, and if he did then I would accept that, because obviously he's the smart one, and has the big picture and knows the whole plan."
Older daughters are taught that serving their families and helping their mothers look after children is serving God. The strain on the childbearing women is most obvious but older girls are also under pressure helping to care for younger brothers and sisters. Fathers are under pressure to provide for large families; the whole family in many cases suffers through being too large.
Never mentioned are if the extremely high child mortality rates of the Middle Ages and before were also God's will, nor if advances in medicine are seen to be subverting it. They also peddle a plethora of debunked claims about birth control, calling it an abortifacient and warning men that a vasectomy will cause their junk to "blowout" like an old fire hose. Not only are women who are at high risk for complications or death told to keep bearing children and place their trust in God, but Quiverfulls try to convince non-Quiverfulls that it's actually better for women to have all those kids.
Mass produced kids
The ideology behind the movement is essentially that children should be mass-produced to serve their
cult faith, which is rather at odds with its supporters' claims that children are equal to unborn fetuses in that they should be treated as unique, valued individuals. Not surprisingly, therefore, Quiverfull children are often homeschooled, in order to keep them indoctrinated to the pleasure/utility/oppression of the movement.
Feminists have expressed concern about the Quiverfull movement, as it generally follows a patriarchal model and encourages "Biblical womanhood," a fancy term for being a submissive little skivvy who accepts her husband's total supremacy. This patriarchal model usually goes far past what even conservative Southern Baptists (who officially endorse a wife's subjection to her husband) would consider appropriate, with the husband making every single decision for the entire family, and even raising daughters to the task of being mothers.
Moreover, the set-up is usually rigged in such a way that any woman who tries to leave the movement is incapable of sustaining herself, as they usually have no work experience or references (as the entire community shuns them); in this way it resembles a cult. At the same time, women who support the movement see themselves as part of a counterculture opposing a feminist status quo.
Viability as a political strategy
It's questionable whether Quiverfull is actually a useful strategy for influencing politics and social norms.
Some researchers have questioned how reliably children inherit the political views of their parents. Quiverfull ideologues would respond that, because they deliberately groom their children to believe a certain way, the likelihood of children adopting those beliefs is higher. But this may be of no help to them: other studies have shown that children become more likely to rebel against their parents' beliefs if parents attempt to force them on their children.
Furthermore, Quiverfull families and churches exist almost exclusively in communities that are already deeply conservative and religious to begin with, and because of their strong dependence on their other family members and dislike of secular society they rarely move far away from these communities. As a result, they don't have any electoral influence outside of districts that would be safely under conservative control even without their help.
Also ironic is that many evangelical Christians accuse Muslims of having large families in order to out-breed and conquer the infidel populations by displacing them with their sheer numbers, when they themselves do the very same thing often with the same line of reasoning. At the same time, birth rates in the Muslim world are declining.
- Criticism on feminist grounds
- A blog run by ex-Quiverfull women
- "A Quick and Dirty Sex Ed Guide for Quiverfull Daughters" - by a woman raised in the Quiverfull movement
- "A Womb is a Weapon," BBC radio documentary on Quiverfull
- Cracked: 5 Insane Lessons from My Christian Fundamentalist Childhood
- Actually, Quiverfull goes even further than Catholic dogma, also eschewing natural family planning and sterilization.
- The Quiverfull: The evangelical Christians opposed to contraception
- Psalm 127:4-5
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/8287740.stm Fighting the 'contraceptive mentality'
- Why Quiverfull Moms Do Not and Cannot Love Their Bodies
- "Quiverfull.com's first priority is to serve God through proclaiming that every child is a gift and blessing from our gracious heavenly father. " Quiverfull.com, About us
- 10 Lies I Believed About “Worldly Parents” ~ AKA, You! A former Quiverfull member, on alternet.org.
- Kathryn Joyce, "Women’s Liberation Through Submission: An Evangelical Anti-Feminism Is Born:
- Te-Erika Patterson, Do Children Just Take Their Parents' Beliefs? It's Not That Simple. The Atlantic, 1 May 2014.
- "out-breeding"_whites "Christian Right's Demographic Nightmare: Muslims are "Out-Breeding" Whites". Alternet.
- "The Future of the Global Muslim Population".